“Even today, I still find myself continually wanting to pick up more and more skill sets, take additional classes, learn new techniques, learn something completely outside of my field.”
It is this unceasing desire to learn and grow that drives and shapes Daniel Marinelli and his work. Daniel is persistent, meticulous, and driven. Those qualities paired with an intimate relationship with his materials – primarily metal, wood, and paint – make him and the work he produces unique. His work is intricate yet minimal, rigid yet fluid. His eye for detail and his impeccable finishing skills have propelled him to where he is today.
Marinelli grew up near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in close proximity to the Brandywine School. Brandywine was started by Howard Pyle, a famous illustrator in 1900, and teaches art and illustration, and gave way to many notable students some of which include N. C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. This exposure to art and artists at a formative age greatly influenced Daniel and was one of the reasons why he chose to pursue art as a career. First, attending Bob Jones University where he studied painting and drawing, and came to discover clay work. He shifted gears, changed his major and spent a few post college years focusing on clay and ceramics. Eventually, he chose to pursue an MFA in sculpture at East Tennessee State University. At ETSU he moved away from clay and spent his graduate work mainly focusing on metal and wood. In the Spring of 2012, Daniel completed a three year residency at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina.
Today, you’ll find Daniel in his fabrication shop in Taylors, South Carolina where he’s finding a balance of creating his own work, making custom work for others, and developing his newest project, OKGoods. OKGoods creates functional architectural items such as lighting, door pulls, furniture, as well as other custom site-specific pieces and installations.
Read more below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Well, my background and my undergraduate discipline was in ceramics (the “gate-way craft”!). I then went on to graduate school where I started doing more and more with steel and wood. After that, I was lucky enough to be given a residency at the Penland School of Crafts. It was there that I really started cutting my teeth as a full time studio artist/maker. Once the residency was over we settled in the Greenville, SC area. While continuing to make sculpture/paintings, I also wanted to increase my offerings to a wider audience by created more functional works. Last year, I started OKGoods, making custom, architectural elements (mostly in steel).
What made you decide to pursue art as a career? How did you define the type of art you would create?
I was always making stuff, tinkering, using tools, etc. I was also very easily enthralled by many different types of work/occupations. I didn’t know what I was going to pursue, whether it was architecture, the food industry, art, but I did know that I couldn’t sit still and I had to be using my hands and making / creating stuff. Even today, I still find myself continually wanting to pick up more and more skill sets, take additional classes, learn new techniques, learn something completely outside of my field.
You also do work as a studio artist. How do you balance your work at OK Goods with your studio work?
Well, having mouths to feed (I’ve got a lovely wife and three young kids), when I’ve got paying work in the door, that definitely takes precedence. It is tough, because there are times where I would really like to work on my own stuff. However, when I do have time to devote to personal work/projects, that means that there is a lull in the paying work and I can feel my anxiety level slowly creeping up, because the bills are going to keep on coming! Over the past two years, I have had very little time to create my own work (which, on one hand, is a good thing!) However, moving forward, I would like to make a more concerted effort to strike a better balance.
What have been the biggest obstacles, or most difficult aspects of being a full time working artist?
One of the many difficult things about working for yourself/being a full time maker/owning your own business is that you never get to clock out! If I am not at the shop, hitting the pavement, trying to drum up more business, or self-promoting, I feel guilty! Whenever I try to relax, there’s always this little thing in that back of my mind that’s telling me I should / could be doing more!
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Several times, I have received thank you notes from folks that I have sold stuff to / made stuff for. This is always a real sweet gesture to receive – that someone appreciates the work that went into their creation enough to tell you about it!
What is the most valuable lesson(s) you've learned on your journey as an artist?
Persistence. And humility. And “the hustle”. And frugality. And… Man, I could go on and on. Seems like once you feel like you’re starting to get the hang of one thing, life comes along and gives you the old “one-two” with yet another characteristic/quality you’re supposed to try and get a handle on.
Where do you go for inspiration or trends? Any go-to artists, blogs, websites, studios, locations, Instagram feeds, etc?
Gosh, there is so much talent out there! It seems like every time I turn around, I am jotting another name down or following yet another maker online. And I am enamored by all kinds of work/disciplines (jewelry, clay, wood, iron, architecture, glass, etc.) Okay, here’s a short list of who/what I am looking at recently:
- Roman and Williams (Design Firm based in NYC)
- Casey Neistat (‘Vlogger’, filmmaker)
- Tom Sachs
- Tom Kundig (and consequently, 12th Avenue Iron)
- Martin Puryear
- facethinksmakes (design/fabrication based in NYC)
- American Craft, Dwell, Make (my three current subscriptions)
What's the best advice you've ever received?
“Be like a duck, be like a duck! Above the water – where everyone can see you, you’re cool, collected, in charge. Under the water – where no one sees what’s going on, you’re paddling like hell!”
What is your dream project?
Well, if I could make it a daily discipline to slow down and take a step back and look around me, and not get so bent out of shape about things like rent money, or work load, or marketing, or deadlines, I would live out the realization that I have it so good! How many folks throughout time and history have been able to pursue what they love? I am very, very fortunate – it’s a luxury.
Any favorite Taylors / Travelers Rest / Greenville artists, designers, makers, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. right now? Yes, this is a very broad question!
I’ll stick with the restaurants on this question – there are so many great places to eat down here! I’m drawn to the humble eateries that have a long standing history/reputation. With that being said, three come to mind: The Pita House (wonderful Middle Eastern food), SWAD (Vegetarian Indian ‘hole-in-the-wall’), and Mike and Jeff’s BBQ (holding it down for twenty years!).
And, one from left field. If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
I’m going to go with Miller High Life! It has stood the test of time, is refreshing, and gets the job done! And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like “The Champagne of Beers”?